Will San Pedro ever have a constant water supply?

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 1            January 16, 2003

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The challenges to San Pedro's water supply appear to be never-ending as yet again water has been rationed for more than a week due to a damaged gear needed to drive the system at Belize Water Limited (BWL). According to BWL Manager Jim Kavanagh, a spare was being repaired in the United States so they resorted to an electric motor as a backup drive, but this motor (only recently repaired and thoroughly tested) also malfunctioned, which led to the recent rationing of water. Residents and visitors alike are sorely inconvenienced by water outages daily from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. on Ambergris Caye, the number one tourist destination in Belize.

    Questioned as to why the system cannot be completely renovated or a new one put in place, Mr. Kavanagh explained that they are subcontracted by Belize Water Services Limited (BWSL) and only they and his "parent" company in the Caymans can make those decisions. According to various sources, a re-negotiation of the existing contract between the two companies has been planned since the former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) was privatized by the government and sold to BWSL over a year ago. Mr. Kavanagh stated at the time of their initial contract with WASA, BWL was contracted to provide 150,000 gallons of water per day for the island. Currently, Ambergris Caye's water usage stands at 320,000 gallons per day, or more than twice the amount required by that contract. Kavanagh stated BWL has fulfilled their contract and met this additional demand for the past six to eight months, with the exception of times when the plant was incapacitated. Kavanagh further explained that even though they are in a debilitated state, they are still producing 190,000 gallons per day and when BWL is fully functioning, it has the capabilities of providing 420,000 gallons of water per day. Additional problems lie in the storage capacity, which is currently only 300,000 gallons. Mr. Kavanagh commented, "When the equipment fails we are generally not at full water capacity, so there is already a water shortage." He suggested a need to triple the storage capacity for water to alleviate the need for rationing when these problems occur.

    Contacting Belize Water Services Limited Customer Relations revealed no knowledge of contract re-negotiations. Further information regarding BWSL plans was requested but not provided by press time.

    Pursuing other avenues, The San Pedro Sun contacted President and Chief Operations Officer of Consolidated Water, the parent company of Belize Water Limited. Commenting on the situation in San Pedro, Mr. Frederick McTaggart responded, "We regret very much that water is being rationed in San Pedro and are working closely with our Belize subsidiary to improve the situation as soon as possible. Consolidated Water has over thirty years experience in building and operating desalination plants in the Cayman Islands and we stand ready and willing to increase the production capacity of the San Pedro plant when we have reached acceptable contractual terms with Belize Water Services. In the meantime, we have offered to provide a temporary portable desalination unit which will supplement our present water production capacity in San Pedro while BWS considers its long-term plans."

    At press time Tuesday evening, The San Pedro Sun was assured that the repaired gear was awaiting transport to the island from the mainland and that BWL crews were standing by to make the necessary repairs as soon as it arrived.

    As it has been stated so many times before, the motto being adopted by all of Belize's utilities appears to be - "Sorry for the inconvenience."

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